Wednesday, November 21, 2018


The Westport (Ireland) Horse Fair dates back to 1741 and takes place on the last Saturday of September each year. This year (2018) Ollie and I happened to be in in Westport and stumbled across this wonderful event.
The older musicians and singers we have recorded for The National Library over many decades did not differentiate between an old song/tune and one that was contemporary.  The criteria was enjoyment, if they liked it they would perform it.
When we were involved in the collection of old dances with the late Peter Ellis we found that this sometimes was also true although there was some resistance in transition between Old Time and New Vogue on occasion. This video shows that the mob in Westport are fairly adaptable, even in pouring rain. 

Rob Willis

Monday, October 29, 2018


Here's how Ukrainians look after their musical traditions. It's an interactive project that brings high tech together with fieldwork and research to make the riches of Ukrainian folk music available to all, as they describe it:

The mission of the Polyphony Project is to explore, preserve and present the living musical folklore of Ukrainian villages. In addition to recording the intangible cultural treasures of the Ukrainian peasantry using state-of-the-art technology, our priority is to make this heritage of unparalleled value accessible to contemporary society. Having accumulated over centuries, this legacy is finally available online in an organised form.

They're on Youtube as well, of course.

Thanks Rob and Ollie Willis.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


NLA logo header

2018 National Folk Fellow Presentation


Songs from the Homeland

2018 National Folk Fellow Salvatore Rossano presents ‘Sonu’, a project that explores themes of migration using field recordings taken from the National Library’s Oral History collection. Join us as Salvatore and his band, Santa Taranta, present this research and original compositions inspired by these recordings.

In association with the National Folk Festival

Thursday 29 November | 6pm
Theatre | free
Book here or 02 6262 1111

Salvatore Rossano

Monday, October 22, 2018


Further on weather lore - it seems that in Central Queensland they can tell when it's going to rain by

looking at the cactus flowers - the more there are blooming, the more it rains. Look at that sucker!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018


Our old mate Ed Sorenson again provides some eyewitness insight into the way bush folk made and played their own music in the nineteenth century. In his Life in the Australian Backblocks (1911), he describes the farming custom of ‘corn-husking’, which is exactly what it sounds like, plus music and the opportunity for young couples to do some courting. At corn-husking concerts, or parties:
‘A farmer takes his family to a neighbour's tonight, and spends the evening (a farmer's evening runs to midnight) husking his corn. Next night the neighbour and his family return the visit, and on the following night, probably, some other farmer's barn is visited. This is the farmer's "at home" night, and for entertainment all the gossip of the district is ventilated, yarns are told, and songs are sung—while working; Sarah Jones's engagement with Jim Smith is announced, and all the remarkable and unremarkable incidents in the lives of the old people are aired—an interesting jumble of gold-digging, blacks, and bushrangers.’
Amongst all this gossiping, yarning and music-making:
‘The young folks enjoy these parties; the work is much more pleasant, and time doesn't drag. But the system is not followed to any great extent. There is too much talking for the average farmer (a lot of people can't work and talk, and some can't work and listen), and too much time is lost tramping to and fro, while the young people get playing and giggling. Many a courtship has started at those husking parties, and many a union could be traced back to the sly hand-clasps and squeezes when fumbling for cobs.’
As far as the courting and cuddling opportunities went, according to Sorenson, ‘a husking party offers many advantages over the bush dance.’ 

Surely, people were listening to the music, weren’t they?

Graham Seal

Saturday, August 11, 2018


Drought has always been a feature of Australian life and is a topic with an extensive folklore surrounding it. Following on from our recent look at weatherlore, Rob has put together a short but evocative YouTube clip that says it all through a little field recorded folksong, some recitation, together with a few well-chosen images and – a nursery rhyme!

Saturday, August 4, 2018


Near Young, NSW

Here’s a post from Rob about the drought devastating large parts of rural Australia, and a related project on the folklore of weather forecasting.

I live in Forbes, Central West NSW and we are really copping the drought. Over the years we have been collecting weather folklore for the NLA and I want to bring this all together and would love some help, please. Maybe we can work out a way to bring on some rain? I know that sailors reckon that whistling brings on a storm ....  everyone whistle, please. So, old sayings (Red sky at night...), songs, comparisons ('dry as a dead dingo's donger', etc), animal and bird habits, ANYTHING to do with weather. Send them to our Facebook page. We will whack them all together and put them up on our blogsite. Will also publish them locally and maybe take the farmers minds off their current circumstance.

Thanks heaps.
Rob Willis